Parents of pupils at Cambridge Primary School are outraged by the school’s decision to implement a test to determine whether pupils can qualify to study Xhosa instead of Afrikaans as a first additional language from Grades 4-7.
On October 30, the school issued a letter to parents explaining that it will be offering isiXhosa as an alternative to Afrikaans, from 2024.
The letter states that pupils who have an interest in studying Xhosa will be required to do an assessment to test their ability to read, speak, comprehend, and write in Xhosa.
The curriculum will cover listening and speaking, reading and viewing, writing, and presenting language structures and conventions.
The letter, issued by deputy principal Lisa de la Cornillere-Schutte, reads: “Please take note that this would be their First Additional Language and they would have to pass it to progress to the following grade. Many children who have taken isiXhosa in the past have realised it is quite difficult.”
Pupils who are unable to meet the minimum requirements will not qualify to take isiXhosa as their first additional language and will have to do Afrikaans instead, the letter states.
Angry parents expressed their frustration on social media and to the media, claiming the school was being discriminatory.
One parent said: “I am not happy with this. It seems as if they are working against the black child.
“The fact that there is no test for the Afrikaans subject shows how unfair this is.
“If they deny our children the chance to do Xhosa, that will also affect their confidence and make them think they are stupid.
“We pay the same fees as the white parents. Why are they telling us that Xhosa is a difficult subject? Even if it is difficult, it is not their place to tell us.
“They must just scrap the test,” said Velisile Bukula, a disgruntled parent.
Chantel King, a DA MP and shadow minister for higher education, said the testing was unethical.
“Considering that the SGB decided to offer isiXhosa, they should therefore be aware of the language policy and SA Schools Act. Entry-level testing is not constitutionally acceptable and will limit students from mother-tongue learning. There is no such policy, which can be viewed as discriminatory in nature. Language choices is first and foremost that of the parent and learner,” said King.
The principal of the school, Michelle Rothmann, said considering the negative response, the assessment test could be subject to change.
“The idea behind the test is to ensure the learners are at the level they need to be at to do well in Xhosa.
“It is unfortunate the parents went to social media instead of speaking to me directly to share their grievances. I am open to making changes. In fact, the first step will be to ensure we do tests for both Xhosa and Afrikaans to ensure it is fair for everyone,” said Rothmann.
Department of Education provincial spokesperson, Malibongwe Mtima, said the school’s decision to implement a test was in violation of the constitution.
“We have learned of this from social media today [November 3] and we will dispatch a fact-finding team as this is against the supreme law of the Republic, the constitution. Constitutional imperative talks about parity of esteem and equitable use of all languages, hence we shall do that,” he said.